STREET SMARTS

Street Smarts: Fremont Ave. bears name of famed explorer of West

2013-06-25T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T15:34:34Z Street Smarts: Fremont Ave. bears name of famed explorer of WestDavid Leighton For The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Fremont Avenue, which runs north and south just east of Park Avenue, is named in honor of the fifth governor of the Arizona Territory.

John C. Fremont, nicknamed "The Pathfinder," was a soldier and politician, but foremost an explorer.

Fremont was born to a French adventurer in Savannah, Ga., in 1813. From there the family moved to Nashville, Tenn. A couple of days after their arrival, a duel took place right outside the family's hotel room between future President Andrew Jackson and the baby Fremont's future father-in-law, Thomas Hart Benton.

Fremont briefly attended the College of Charleston in 1828 but was kicked out. In 1833, he met Joel Poinsett, a prominent botanist who was the namesake for the poinsettia flower and the first U.S. minister to Mexico.

In 1841, while in Washington, D.C., he met Jessie Benton, daughter of by then U.S. Sen. Thomas Hart Benton. Although she was quite a bit younger than Fremont, the two eloped the year they met.

Over the next decade or so, Fremont led five expeditions to the West, surveying and assessing the viability of a railroad route. His various travels took him across the Salt Lake desert, to California, and across the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.

In 1846, he was in Monterey, Calif., with 61 men but was forced to leave by Mexican commander Jose Castro. He headed to Sacramento, where it is believed he received instructions from the U.S. War Department. He immediately headed to San Francisco, where he encouraged rebellion against Mexico by settlers in the area.

The new anti-slavery Republican Party nominated him for president in 1856, but he was easily defeated by Democrat James Buchanan.

In the Civil War, he served as a major general in command of the Department of the West and contributed greatly to the support of the emancipation of slaves. From 1878 to 1883, he served as governor of the Arizona Territory, a position some historians say he was given to relieve his chronic poverty.

Fremont died in a Manhattan rooming house in 1890.

Fremont Avenue was originally named Nelson Street in 1896 by Lulu May Nelson, a real estate promoter. Certain parts of the street would later be named Catalina Avenue and "D" Street. Around 1906, Fremont Avenue first appeared on maps, and soon the whole alignment had that name.

Editor's note

Each week the Star tells the stories behind Tucson street names. If you have streets to suggest or stories to share, contact writer David Leighton at streetsmarts@azstarnet.com

Sources Special thanks to Rick Drennen of Catalina Pawn. Jay J. Wagoner, "Early Arizona: Prehistory to Civil War," University of Arizona Press, 1975 Robert M. Utley, "The American West: A Multicultural Encyclopedia," Grolier Educational Corp., 1995 Civil War website: www.civilwarhome.com/fremontbio.htm Fremont bio: www.sierranevadavirtualmuseum.com/docs/specialex/biographies/fremontj.htm Poinsettia article: www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/466291/poinsettia Pima County plat map MP01001

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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